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The heart of the "friendly North" is Fiji's second-largest island (8,992-square km [3,472-square mi]), home to roughly a fifth of the country's population. Characterized by a lack of development relative to other parts of the country, hilly Vanua Levu comprises mainly dense rain forest, small coastal villages, and two disparate coastal towns on its north and south sides. Labasa is a major sugar
producer set amid sugarcane fields, while Savusavu is a modest hub of tourism and foreign investment on the coast. Between the two lies one of Fiji's most diverse rain-forest reserves, Waisali. From Savusavu, the fantastically scenic (and jolting) Hibiscus Highway rolls east past resorts and then quiet but welcoming villages.
The only part of the island geared to tourism is the small port town of Savusavu. The town has become one of the major yachting centers in the region and, thanks to local land laws, has become favored for property investment. Regardless of where you stay around Savusavu, you'll have access to an untouched rain-forest reserve, an equally undisturbed barrier reef and a small, friendly town set contentedly amid it all. If the barrier between feeling like a tourist and being accepted as a neighbor can truly be overcome in one part of Fiji, it's on Vanua Levu or "Great Land."
Vanua Levu's second airport is a half-hour drive outside of this sugar town. Like northeastern Viti Levu, the town is serviced by a narrow-track...